Sometimes people will try to correct a swearing friend by pointing out that Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Those who employ this gentle chide may not understand exactly how theologically important their little quip is.
Christology is one of those topic where my initial excitement is quite high and then it drops rapidly the more I get into it. The first 10 minutes of the ride or fantastic but the longer it goes on The less enjoyable and helpful I find it. In baking, the more you need the dough the less appetizing it gets.
Part of the difficulty in the situation is the binary categorization that has come to us throughout history.
- From Above/From Below
Having said that, Christology is another epic topic that, like atonement and baptism before it, has everything that we are looking in our journey though these ABC’s of theology: the perspectives are diverse, the topic is inherently multifaceted, different views have developed over time, many of those view has changed or adapted over time, and there is contemporary work being done on the subject. Christology can also be contention.
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When people ask me what I believe about Jesus I try to say something like:
Jesus was a unique human. Jesus was fully human in the way that we all are human with one slight difference that makes him special. Like many of us, Jesus was open to the presence of God in his life. Jesus, however, was open to God’s presence in his life to a degree that only a few other humans have ever been. This meant that God’s presence in his life began to actually form his character and allowed him to say something that not many others can: “I and the father are one – if you have seen me you have seen the father” (John 14:9).
What makes Jesus truly unique however was not this openness – for other exemplars have been this open to what God was calling them to be – what makes Jesus unique is what God called him to be: messiah for the whole world.
This approach recognizes that Jesus was unique in human history in that:
- Jesus shows us something unique about God
- God was present with Jesus in a unique way that comprised Jesus’ identity and character.
It avoids the dangerous temptation to say that Jesus was not fully human, only appeared human, or was a different kind of human. It also allows us to embrace Jesus as a model for full-humanity (to the Nth degree) and openness to God’s calling in our own lives.
At some point we will have to address the evolution from Jesus’ religion to a religion about Jesus. That is a tricky and complicated conversation, but I have seen it bear good fruit for those who are will to wrestle with it.
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